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What are birthday blues and why do we face them?
Ever think about your upcoming birthday and feel a sense of despair and stress instead of feeling excited and thrilled? That could be birthday blues. While there could be underlying mental health-related issues that affect certain people in this case, I'm going to be talking about the overall feeling of birthday blues that a lot of us tend to experience around our birthdays.
Remember when we were kids?
I think most of us did not face birthday blues as kids because
a. We had very cute, innocent and naive ideas about what happiness looked like. Our lives were pretty straightforward and simple. Birthdays for us were a joyous day where we would be surrounded by our loved ones and be showered with love, affection, and of course, presents!
b. We did not have the pressure of planning the day ourselves. It was all taken care of by our elders. Typically, our parents would throw a party in the evening and it would be attended by all your friends and relatives. There would be a lot of cake and that was enough to make us happy and enthusiastic about this annual day that was meant to celebrate the fact that we were born.
But as we get older, our lives get more nuanced, if not more complicated. There are a lot more factors that go into making decisions now, and what's worse, WE are now responsible for making those decisions and seeing them through!
That's when a lot of us could feel these birthday blues. In my opinion, people who are a little socially anxious or awkward or conscious tend to feel these blues more often. Apart from that, someone who is feeling a little lost in life, has a lot going on, or is rethinking their current lifestyle could also feel these blues.
For our ease of understanding, I have divided these causes into 'bigger picture' and 'smaller picture' blues.
The bigger picture blues:
Fear of getting older: The fear of getting older can be quite real sometimes when it feels like time is passing too quickly or that we're handling additional responsibilities as we're getting older. Because birthdays mark our increasing age every year, this fear can be reinstilled in us when our birthday draws near.
Looking back on your life and feeling dissatisfied: Maybe there were a few goals that you were expecting to hit by this nearing new milestone and it has not worked out yet. Maybe life has had its own plans for you and it seems hard to figure stuff out. During our birthday season, we start taking stock of our lives so far. If there is a certain sense of dissatisfaction about it, then it can lead to birthday blues.
Holding yourself up to societal expectations: Society has a lot of plans for us which are made regardless of our consent. The expectations to hit certain milestones at a certain age, to conform to the conventional definitions of success and progress - there's a lot. From time to time, this can get to us. Because we are in that reflective state during our birthdays, this can also be a contributing factor to our birthday blues.
The smaller picture blues:
Having the pressure to plan the day: If you're someone who takes everyone's schedules into consideration while planning or what to plan according to everyone's convenience, making sure no one is uncomfortable with anything, it can be A LOT to plan the day. It can take a toll on you and make you not look forward to your birthday at all. I have faced this before, where I've wanted to meet all my friend groups separately and give them equal attention and figure out how to not mix my circles so that there's no awkwardness. It does take a lot out of you.
Fear of not getting the most of out the day: We have this conditioned notion that we should go all out on our birthdays and have endless plans strung together and have a loud, exciting time. What we forget to consider here is that not all of us want that for our birthdays. Our birthday blues tend to hit us when 'want we actually want' doesn't coincide with 'what we think we should want'.
Expecting to ‘feel happy’ all day: Each year, during our birthday season, we may be going through a completely different emotional phase in our life. Not all of these phases are going to be happy and positive. If you have been dealing with a heavier phase during your birthday season, all your problems are not going to go away just for that one day. So it's very possible that you may not be feeling particularly happy on your birthday. What gets the birthday blues going is the unrealistic expectation of 'feeling happy' throughout the day when we are not in that frame of mind in our life, otherwise.
5 ways to beat the birthday blues and turn them into birthday yellows:
Plan small things throughout the day that boost your mood Planning smaller, low-key events or moments throughout your day can help you feel grounded and at ease with your day. It can be as simple as buying yourself flowers or doing a workout that makes you feel really good after - whatever works for you. This can introduce small moments of peace and calm throughout your day and fills it up with things you look forward to doing. This can help beat the birthday blues and return the feeling of anticipation to your day.
Let yourself feel whatever you are feeling, don’t try to suppress or avoid it You don’t have to pretend to be all jolly and pumped just because it’s your birthday. If you’re feeling that from within, then that’s wonderful! But if not, then there’s absolutely no need to suppress or avoid those emotions, these usually tend to magnify when suppressed! We don't want that, especially for your birthday. When you can accept whatever it is that you're feeling, it actually makes it easier to let go of that feeling as compared to pretending otherwise or putting on a mask of happier emotions.
Make as many or as few plans as you are comfortable making Everyone’s social capacity can vary depending on a lot of factors! There’s no reason to follow anybody else’s frequency of making plans. You are free to make as many or as few plans as you feel comfortable making. Whether your perfect day sounds like a simple meal with a loved one or a big party where everyone you know is invited - both of these choices sound great. But the right choice is the one that makes you feel excited about your birthday.
Don’t let anyone else dictate how you should spend your birthday Everyone's ideas of spending a good birthday can be different. Whatever works for you, works for you. You don't have to give in to the pressure of managing anyone else's idea about what your birthday should look like. Generally, most of the people who are giving you advice about how to spend your day are coming from a place of good intentions and want you to have a good time. It's totally up to you about which advice is taken and which is discarded.
Tell yourself that it’s okay to celebrate the day the way you want to Ultimately, it's your birthday. This is the one day that you get a free pass to put yourself in the centre of your own universe and do things your own way. Sometimes there can be a little hesitation from your own self to accept how you actually want to spend your day, especially if it contradicts the way you've spent your previous birthdays or have changed your preferences. Self-love and self-care is an act that we want to incorporate in our everyday life and what better day than our birthday to practise it?
I hope you found some good ammunition through this blog to beat the birthday blues and turn them into birthday yellows - a sunny and positive feeling about your birthday!
If you find this helpful, I'm linking a few other resources for further reading along with my Youtube video on this very topic!
Further reading and resources:
What is birthday depression? https://www.verywellmind.com/birthday-depression-why-some-people-feel-sad-on-their-birthdays-5190225
Why are birthdays so hard? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321063
Birthday Depression - You don't have to feel ashamed: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/depression/birthday-depression-is-real-heres-why-you-dont-have-to-feel-ashamed/
Check out my video on this topic:
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